Fighting wage theft on the community and parish level can be especially effective.
A big part of building any coalition is talking directly to people about their problems and really listening to them, said Jason Lowry, an organizer with the Valley Interfaith Project based in Phoenix.
"Once you figure out what the stories are, there are all kinds of ways you can pull together people who are willing to take action on it. It needs to be truly a grassroots effort."
Such actions also help congregations rethink their role locally, he says, and allow them to "reclaim turf."
Monica Dorcey, who has been a leader with Valley Interfaith Project for 15 years, recently worked with a network of churches in Phoenix to get more low-income people vaccinated.
In general, the basic tool for reaching people, according to Dorcey, is a neighborhood walk, going door-to-door, passing out flyers, setting up house meetings. "Even the ice cream lady who goes all over the neighborhood is involved. It creates a buzz in the neighborhood" as well as generating positive publicity, she said.
"If you don't rush through it, you can have a real conversation not just about what you're interested in, but about what else is going on. You can have opportunities for people to say what's on their mind," she said.
In the case of a topic like wage theft, "it's not something people readily talk about. You have to put yourself in a position where they can open up about it," Dorcey said.
If someone has complaints about some type of wage theft, the goal would be first to help the person "share their story in a clear, concise way." Then, she suggested, a delegation of parish members might approach the individual's employer.
"Say 'We don't expect our people to be treated that way. We respectfully ask you to rectify this situation.' Make it clear that this is something we're working on and we're not going away," she said.
If that happens, she added, "Word would get around. The church might become known as a place to go" to redress injustices.
[Photo Credit: CNS / Reuters / Mike Blake]
On This Labor Day, Advocating for Just Wages Means Fighting Company Theft, National Catholic Reporter [pdf]
As the most ethnically diverse parish in the Diocese of Fort Worth, St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish in Arlington, Texas holds mass in four languages: English, Spanish, French and Twi. Over the last two years, in partnership with the Dallas Area Sponsoring Committee, the parish has undergone a deeply embedded congregational development process involving 3,000 parishioners – 600 of which participated in small group conversational encounters held by 80 ministry leaders.
Subsequent congregational development meetings integrated Catholic Social Teaching into training sessions on leadership, stewardship and responsibility to the common good. These meetings consistently drew 200 at a time. As a result, new leaders soon emerged for the pastoral council and other parish ministries. There is now clarity about the need to build a stronger parish community and attend to the challenges families face.
In November, after leaders heard weekly “horror stories” about the debilitating effect of predatory loans on families, St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish stood with the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops to publicly launch a campaign calling on the City of Arlington to better regulate payday and title loan lending.